Our VoiceCulture

Pop-Culture: The Monsters are Coming!

Sarah Viets • Jul 02, 2008

Don’t forget, it’s a conspiracy! While our national leaders repeatedly speak of red and orange terrorist alerts, while they warn us of “illegal” invaders, our American leaders inspire fear.
Or do they?

Why am I so jittery? Do I subconsciously mistrust what’s unknowingly familiar? And if so, what am I so uncertain about?

Do we crave fear, or do politicians campaign on behalf of trepidation?

Science fiction and horror movie reels are no longer a past-time fave. They’re here and each show is filled with wide-eyed anxious moviegoers: But why?

Recently a friend of mine urged me to see what the fuss was all about.

My nerves were loose and as we waited for the film to begin, I filled the empty silence with my latest personal dramatic episode. It was my night off. It was time well deserved to escape the inevitable realities of my everyday life. And the evening’s selection was Cloverfield.

The beginning of the film starts off with a bang. Cloverfield intensifies my emotions by shooting the film documentary style for ninety minutes, the entire length of the film. The lens shakes. It quickly jolts back and forth without any precise course. I struggle to follow each scene. It’s as if I’m chasing the lens without any clear direction. (In fact, if you get car sick, I highly recommend waiting for the DVD. I was nauseas the entire time and some people left about thirty minutes into the film. With that said, I’m not completely confident why.)

As the film progresses shots switch from previous footage to present day events. The home video records over a perfect memorable day between two young sweethearts in exchange for an evening covered in death, stress, and terror.

But in the mix of mayhem, tranquil footage flashes between unpredictable events. Family members are lost, smoke, rubble, and fresh blood fill the streets, military tanks explode, and no matter where the lens turns human life clings on the edge of extinction. An unstable chaotic state transpires from the screen. Uncontrollable events morph anxiety with fear. There’s nowhere to turn. The city is under siege and no one is safe.

The enemy is unknown. Or as one of the main actors terrifyingly says, “I don’t know. It’s something awful. It’s a terrible, terrible thing.”

An hour and a half later, my nerves tightened. I felt anxious, intense, a little distorted but clear and purposeful at the same time. But what was my direction? (I looked over at my friend anxiously confused, while he sat and looked at me with his, “I told ya so” gaze.)

I was unsure, but I was confident of a few things: the only people I trusted were my blood and inner circle of friends. I examined anything outside of what was familiar with doubt and uncertainty. Unfamiliar faiths, distant lands, and different shades of skin were subconsciously categorized as unidentifiable cultures, the “unknown,” a perceived difference.

I know there’s an enemy, but who is it? I can feel it in my gut. Something isn’t right. But what is it?

I have two choices:

If I choose to live in fear, if I prefer isolation, I shout, “Shut down the borders! Build a 2000 mile fence. Rip children from their mothers and fathers. Invade Iran, Pakistan, and every other Muslim country for that matter. Cut all ties with “foreign” countries labeled “good and evil.” Liberate myself through hibernation. And take a firm stance against crime.

Or, I choose something different. I choose the “unknown.” Instead of allowing fear to control me, I choose to challenge how I feel and think of something new.

Just because I can’t see a viable solution doesn’t mean a visible alternative doesn’t exist.

Why? Because maybe my gut is wrong. It wouldn’t be the first time. Maybe my anxiety and fear isn’t really here. Or maybe it is, but mistakenly directed.

So who is it? Is it the chicken or the egg? Do national leaders perpetuate fear or is fear enmeshed within our American culture?

Our culture creates our American leaders. At the same, the books we read (or don’t), the films we watch, the sub-cultures we attach ourselves to like hip-hop, punk rock, the indie-rock and country scene, or any other subculture I’ve mistakenly forgotten, and our personal experiences informs and defines who we are. Moreover, they influence how we see the world.

Politicians may come and go, but the ideas that create them seem to stay intact.

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